1635: A Parcel of Rogues – Snippet 26

Chapter 13

“Daddy!” Young Robert Cromwell might have been a mature thirteen years of age, and Darryl could remember how much he’d cared about not being a little kid at that age, but the sight of his father had turned him back to about eight. His younger brother, at only twelve, hadn’t even been that restrained, and had simply leapt wordlessly into his father’s arms.

It was, truth to tell, a heart-warming sight — and Darryl decided it was one he was going to turn his back on for a while. As a family, the Cromwells had been through some major grief over the last year or so, and if they needed some time for hugs and, quite possibly, tears, it wasn’t for him to intrude. He wandered over to the other side of the room, where a nice leaded window gave a view of a garden that was being wet by a faint drizzle. Vicky had picked a spot there, doing her best to make polite conversation with Sir Henry, who seemed to Darryl to be a gloomy old geezer.

He’d reason to be gloomy, of course, what with the burnings and the political situation, but the stern and Puritan religion probably wasn’t helping. He was of an age with Cromwell, to whom he was a distant relative — there’d been another of those complicated explanations — and the pair of them had been at college at the same time. They’d been pretty different characters, from the look of things. Cromwell had talked of his time at university mostly in terms of riding and singlestick and football — from the sounds of it, a completely different game to English soccer and a lot more like the football Darryl knew.

Except, possibly, more violent, played without padding or helmets, with only the sketchiest of rules and occasionally resulting in fatalities. Oh, and the ball was made out of a bull’s scrotum, just to make sure it was as manly as possible. He’d also taken part in Camp-ball, that they sometimes called Camping. And that was, from the sounds of it, nothing but a straight-out fight with a ball in there somewhere, with rules that sounded exactly like they’d been come up with by guys who got kicked in the head a lot.

In short, Cromwell had been a college jock. And he’d only been there a year before his father’s death meant he had to go home to support his family.

Sir Henry, on the other hand, was working on a book of theology — a table where the window would light it was covered in papers and a large pot of quills, had finished his first degree and gone back for another, and didn’t have even a quarter of the brawn Cromwell was carrying around. About the only thing they had in common was their local accent and that revolutionary streak that seemed to go so well with being Puritan country gentlemen. They’d be mannerly and polite about it, but they’d throw Molotov cocktails all the same, if push came to shove.

“Young Mistress Short tells me you and she are to be married,” Sir Henry said, by way of including Darryl in the talk. “From all she tells me, you will be very well together, very well indeed. Now you are here, perhaps I might show you somewhat from the future.” He reached over to the table full of theological notes, and picked up a small book that, Darryl could see, showed every sign of being bound in Grantville. “There is a minister in Grantville, the Reverend Green, who has been publishing the writings of the godly, quietly and without great circumstance. He says the spur to it came from Ussher, in Ireland, who is unsound on some details but a good scholar for all that. I have been much exercised lately by the proper and godly business of family, and this came to my attention. From a man who has not been born yet, but seems to have been moved by a spirit of such charity and love he cannot but have been a godly man.”

Darryl had managed to grasp that the Puritans, while they acknowledged the name, preferred to refer to themselves as the godly. “Puritan” had started out as an insulting nickname for them, and a lot of them weren’t comfortable with it for that reason, even though quite a few revelled in it as an in-your-face defiance of the pressure to conform. It sounded like Sir Henry was one of the first lot.

He was flicking through the book. “Here it is!” he said, with the nearest Darryl had seen to pleasure on his face so far. He read aloud, “‘the woman was made of a rib out of the side of Adam; not out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be loved.’ — I hope my own wife has as much from me. And it is good advice, and an excellent reading of that part of scripture. Do you talk to Oliver about his own dear Elizabeth, you will hear the like. They had, by God’s grace, a great affection between them.”

Darryl nodded. “He’s told me about her. It’s been … moving.” Fortunately, the only other up-timer here was Gayle, so the chances of him getting mocked for that level of seriousness were slim. And it looked like Vicky approved entirely, as well. He figured she’d probably not mentioned the use they’d been putting inn rooms to over the last few weeks to Sir Henry, who’d probably Not Approve. Although Darryl was learning, fast, not to jump to conclusions about that sort of thing.

For the moment, Oliver and himself and Vicky and Gayle and everyone else was scattered about the country watching the approaches to Slepe Hall, the Lawrence family residence. They’d been careful about it, as the farmhouse Cromwell had rented was literally just along the road, and they knew that was under watch. They’d come out before dawn and done their best to look inconspicuous. The horses left with a livery in St. Ives proper, a couple of miles to the north, they’d walked here to arrive just as the staff of the manor house were running up to speed on the day. Fortunately, part of that involved getting hearty coal fires lit, which was a great relief after walking through precisely the kind of rain that wet a man most efficiently.

“Father tells me you’re an up-timer,” Oliver Junior said, having broken away from where his older brother and father had sat down to discuss something in low, urgent-sounding tones. Darryl was vaguely aware that there had been a brief session of kneeling in prayer, and now that was over they seemed to be attending to business.

“That I am, kid,” Darryl said, “West Virginia born and raised, right up to the year two thousand. Now I’m back here for a spell. Hear you sent some bad guys off to an ambush?”

The kid seemed like a good one, to Darryl, and it was purely a damned shame that he’d had to grow up so fast. His biggest causes for complaint ought to be schoolwork and chores, not the fact that he was on the lam after his dad had been thrown in the Tower and his mom and little brother shot dead.

“That was Robert,” Oliver said, “he’s been talking to the Committees of Correspondence!”

Darryl grinned. “That sounds like a fine idea he had,” he said, and meant every word. If the CoCs had started in England, between them and the Puritans he figured His Majesty King Charles was in for a hot time of it. And if the revolution wasn’t just the Puritans, there was every reason to think that there wouldn’t be quite the same amount of nastiness happening to Ireland. The Plantations had been about shitting on the Catholic Irish, after all, and if the Committees were involved and making damned sure their freedom of religion platform was part of the new government, things would turn out at least that much for the better.

“It might be, and it might not,” Cromwell senior said, joining the conversation along with Robert and, now, Gayle. “I know little of these men, and much of the kind of mischief young men get up to without proper governance.” There was a rumble of suspicion in his voice that reminded all present, Darryl included, that whatever Cromwell’s own revolutionary sentiments, he was still Dad around here, and don’t forget it.

Darryl shrugged. “I can tell you about Grantville and Magdeburg Committees,” he said, “on account of I know a lot of the guys involved. Gayle, too,” he added, waiting for the nod from her, “but the thing is, what kind of Committee you get in any place depends on who’s doing the organising. There was something getting going in Italy, last I heard, and that was different again from what the guys in Magdeburg were up to. There’s sort of a rumor there’s some undercover ones in France and the Spanish Netherlands, and they’ll be different again. Robert, why don’t you tell us what you know?”